RSA: Napolitano issues DHS national cybersecurity challenge to security community

During the keynote, the DHS chief made clear that the US needs to act with a sense of urgency when it comes to cybersecurity. “We [DHS] need to do more, and we need to do it faster” said Napolitano, “by making the department a focal point of cybersecurity within the federal government” while, at the same time, protecting the privacy of US citizens.

“Terrorism and the fight against terrorism remains our core principle” said Napolitano, referring to DHS’s primary mission when it was established in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks. But as the threats that face our country evolve, she noted, so too must the department’s role in ensuring security. “These are the challenges we want, and we accept,” proclaimed the Homeland Security chief, recognizing that threats to US cybersecurity are also threats to homeland security.

Napolitano shared the department’s long-range vision by defining its key priorities and goals. One of the top five priorities includes safeguarding and securing cyberspace, with two particular objectives in mind: helping create a safe and secure cyber environment, and to promote cybersecurity knowledge and education.

A call to action ensued, as Napolitano informed the attentive crowd that her department needs the best and brightest minds in the security community to help serve the interests of the US. And to further this goal, the DHS will continue to actively recruit the most capable security professionals from the private sector.

Napolitano also acknowledged that government must work hand-in-hand with the private sector to help protect and secure America’s cyber infrastructure. “A secure cyber environment is as much about people and culture as it is about machines,” she said. “We need a public that understands how to remain safe when online.”

The head of the DHS would also call on private-sector vendors to increase the security quality of products that they put on the market, “to create a secure IT ecosystem”, adding that the department was now asking for the private sector to help the US “leap-frog forward” in terms of addressing cybersecurity.

Napolitano closed her remarks by asking the gathered audience and members of the security community at large to submit their ideas on how to best approach cybersecurity. She unveiled the department’s National Cybersecurity Awareness Campaign Challenge, a competition designed to gather and share the most creative ideas for making the public more aware of cybersecurity issues.

The contest closes on April 30, with winners to be invited to an event in Washington in either May or June. “Winners will partner with the Department to lead in the planning of the National Cybersecurity Awareness Campaign and to ready the campaign for its launch during Cybersecurity Awareness Month in October,” notes the Challenge website.

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